By Dani Frank
Greenwich Polo Club
80 Field Point Road
Greenwich, CT 06870
Pack a picnic lunch, grab a comfortable folding chair, and head to the great lawn for a real treat: taking in a match at the Greenwich Polo Club. The noble sport of polo ponies, mallets and chukkers was popularized in England, and arrived in Greenwich in 1981. Founded by Peter Brant, a renowned player and captain of the Club’s White Birch team, the Greenwich Polo Club draws competitors from around the globe, and has played host to the annually held Victory Cup.
Polo matches occur between June and September on Sunday evenings, so you still have time to take in a match. Matches begin at 3 pm, while the Conyers Farm grounds are opened at 1 pm to encourage tailgating and socializing. The social air of polo plays heavily into its appeal, with a “garden chic” dress code encouraged, dogs allowed on the grounds and champagne freely flowing from the spectator’s section. Despite the communal atmosphere, polo is at its core an intense, 90-minute exercise in maneuvering a horse down a 300 yard field while dodging mallets, chasing down a plastic ball and avoiding opposing riders.
To begin the match, a ball is rolled on to the field by the umpire, after which two teams of four players each will fight for possession in an attempt to score goals. Rather than halves or quarters, the match is measured in the aforementioned chukkers, or seven minute intervals. Players will change horses after two chukkers, due to the strenuous demands placed on polo ponies. Play is paused after a goal is scored, accomplished by sending the plastic ball through the opposing team’s goalposts. The direction of play is changed after each point to compensate for wind and field conditions.
Once the match reaches half time, the crowd will make its way to the field for the traditional stomping of the divots. During play, the horse’s hooves will remove dirt, and it is the responsibility of spectators to restore the field to a complete state. The field is officiated by two mounted umpires, a referee and a scorer, who keeps track of penalties, goals and knock-ins, when the other team is allowed a free hit when a team shoots the ball out of bounds. At the beginning of the match, the handicap of each team is determined, and the team with a lower handicap will receive the difference in starting points.
Score sheets are available for spectators in order to keep track of goals, penalties and knock-ins. The game is scored per chukker, and a final score is reached after analyzing the points of the match. But if you happen to have lost score in a blur of hobnobbing, horses and the constant motion of the match, don’t feel bad, you’ve just lost yourself in the all-encompassing experience of polo!
Greenwich Polo Club’s upcoming matches will take place on September 4, 7 and the final match of the season on the 18th. Gate fees for the park are $40, which includes parking and picnicking, though the fields also offer a newly improved gourmet concession stand.
Dani Frank is a fashion,travel and culture enthusiast and writer living in Easton, Connecticut. Peruse her professional work and opinions at her LinkedIn page.